Dissolution drops you into a catastrophically-failed Exterrier colony on Gliese 581c. You're dead - kind of. You're greeted over the radio by a nervous scientist named Wilson. He guides you through the colony, helping you by opening doors and giving you instructions. You follow his orders, given no other option.
The story of Dissolution is fantastic. The introductory sequence is a bit lengthy, discouraging those ready to jump in the action, but it fleshes out the history of Exterrier and WHY you're where you are - something surprisingly lacking in most mods.
Once you get on your feet and start exploring the colony, one of the first thing you'll realize is the stunning voice acting. However, this contrasts with the low quality of the weapons, maps, and sounds.
Weapons are very low-quality and unnatural in both appearance and gunplay. The pistol, for example, takes nearly an entire clip to kill a single enemy, while the shotgun can wipe through three with a single shot.
Mapping is simple yet charming. Repetitive locked doors and hunt-the-key style gameplay doesn't add to the tunnels. On the bright side, the maps are non-linear, allowing you to move around and find secret audio logs scattered around the levels. These audio logs give some insight into the player character's mystery, and how the Exterrier 581c colony collapsed, adding a nice touch of immersion and history to the already-excellent story.
Despite the mediocre gameplay, low-quality models, and basic mapping, the mod still manages to shine simply through voice acting and story. Dissolution truly shows that, in essence, graphics don't matter if the game has a good story.
Slums 2 is a fairly short, yet incredibly detailed mod.
Gameplay mostly revolves around generic shooting. This may seem boring at first glance, but the general gunplay is from tried and proven Half-Life 2. AI placement is great, considering the cramped setting of the slums.
The lack of a story definitely hurt the mod. Adding a simple plot line to explain the strange intro dream, and why the character is fighting his way out of the slums, would greatly increase the immersion.
Atmosphere in this mod is absolutely fantastic. Crawling through grim, dark tunnels, just to climb out into the large, ruined cityscape shows the modder's attention to graphical detail and artistic design. The post-processing effects never felt too harsh, and largely influenced the shady art style.
The sounds and music quality is excellent. The new gunfire sounds are top-notch, sounding entirely natural with the default HL2 weapons.
The music was what caught my eye (or ear). Obviously designed to fit the retro style, the music is a fantastic mix of soundtrack and electronic. Timing of the music was impeccable, and usually ended perfectly after the firefights.
Sadly, the levels suffer from some rapid change of pace. One minute, you're fighting Combine in the apartments. A few minutes later, you're slowly heading through zombie-infested tunnels. Again, back to Combine. The style of play changes far too quickly, and I believe it would have been better to have two or three major play-style changes.
For strong atmosphere, solid and proven gameplay, beautiful sounds, and graphical excellence, I give Slums 2 a 9 out of 10.
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